Last week, Strong Schools Maryland convened organizers, legislators, funders, and other supporters for a remote celebration of the landmark passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the historic education equity legislation that includes recommendations from the Kirwan Commission Report.
Strong Schools Maryland’s Joe Francaviglia hosted the event, which included remarks from State Senate President Bill Ferguson, who championed the legislation, and Brit Kirwan, the chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland who chaired the commission. Kirwan cited 2012 OSI Community Fellow David Hornbeck, who was Philadelphia’s superintendent of schools from 1994 to 2000 and founded Strong Schools Maryland in 2017, for conceiving the Blueprint initiative. “This was his idea. He knew it would work, he has started something like this in Pennsylvania, and he brought this idea to this effort,” Kirwan said. “He made it happen.”
Kirwan also suggested that the Blueprint legislation could serve as a model for advancing equitable education funding around the country. “No state has ever done anything like this,” he said. “I was on a program the other night and I heard the NEA president Becky Pringle say to a large audience that, with the passage of this bill, the state of Maryland has become the model for our nation with pre-K through 12 education, so we have a lot to celebrate.”
OSI-Baltimore has been engaged with Strong Schools Maryland, which led the Blueprint effort, since its founding in 2017. In 2019, Francaviglia came to a meeting of OSI-Baltimore’s Advisory Board to emphasize the importance of the legislation. OSI’s Education and Youth Development program has supported Strong Schools Maryland, Advocates for Children and Youth, and Baltimore Algebra Project, among others, who have worked to advocate for the state to implement the Blueprint’s recommendations, including long-term adequate school funding for Baltimore City Public Schools and other historically under-resourced school districts throughout Maryland. Board members also stepped up in their personal capacity to support the work.
Francaviglia took time to thank the funders who supported work to pass the Blueprint and singled out OSI’s Education and Youth Development Director Karen Webber, who he said had been “a backbone of this work,” adding that not only was OSI a philanthropic supporter but that Webber “has been a thought partner, a behind-the-scenes champion, and someone who got it before there was anything to get.”
Webber joined the celebration and, referencing her experience as a Baltimore City Public Schools educator, said “I know the potential we have when we have the right support and the right funding, and this bill was the right thing to do.”